I have to take a paragraph out of todays post to wish Jenn (my girlfriend) a happy birthday! The photo is not from Damascus, but I was thinking ahead. Hope you're having a good time! Now back to the regularly scheduled blog...
Feeling gross today. I'm pretty sure that it's something I ate, perhaps I've been too adventurous trying food on the street. It's hard to resist trying stuff, there's so many things I've never seen before. There's a 1000 versions of baklava. But it came back to haunt me. It was really difficult to explore Damascus with the same vigor that I've had since the beginning of my trip. To top it off, it rained all day! It made photography really difficult and the temperature uncomfortably chilly.
I was afraid of coming to Damascus. It's the biggest city in Syria and I dread big cities. Surprisingly, it doesn't feel that big. Out of all the places I've been, here I've felt most comfortable with the orientation of the place. It's the first place I've gone out and walked for quite a while without a map or GPS.
Damascus is one of the oldest (if not the oldest) places still inhabited. That was quite apparent when I walked through the "Old Damascus" area. There's ruins on top of ruins on top of ruins with modern buildings built next to them. Some ruins are still being used as modern structures. The biggest mosque here, the Umayyad Mosque, is thought to have been built on a place of worship since 3,000 BC. It's a magnificent mosque, considered the third most important after Mecca and Medina.
The mosque is surrounded by a market or "souq" that makes West Edmonton Mall look tiny. Whoever said it was the biggest mall in the world has never been to the middle east. The market in Damascus has been my favorite so far, more so than Istanbul's. I think part of that is that it's easier to navigate. It's surrounded by fortifications.
The old city is interesting in terms of religion too. Long ago it was split into quarters; Christian, Muslim, Jewish. It used to have walls dividing each quarter and the gates used to close at sunset. There's quite a difference in the architecture as you walk among the different quarters. Orthodox churches with towers bearing the cross and Islamic minarets decorated with the crescent moon; it's quite the sight. The fourth quarter is the Citadel (which is closed for restoration) and a palace.
I really wish I could have seen more of Damascus. I just really lacked the energy today. Tomorrow my plan is to get a bus to Amman, Jordan. I may stay longer in Damascus if I don't feel better tomorrow.